Let’s be honest, with a newborn at home, exercising may be the last thing on your mind, but there are many benefits to exercise after pregnancy. Exercise can promote weight loss, improve cardiovascular fitness, improve your energy level and mood, relieve stress, prevent or improve the recovery from baby blues or 4th trimester depression, improve the strength and condition of abdominal muscles, and even give you a much needed break from your little bundle of joy.
When is it safe to start exercising?
It is always best to ask your healthcare provider for specific guidelines on return to exercise as every woman’s body and delivery are different, but for a woman who exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, it is generally safe to begin exercising within several days of delivery. For women who have cesarean sections, extensive vaginal repair, or a complicated birth, the time frame will be significantly longer, usually around 6-8 weeks.
General tips for return to exercise after delivery
What activities should you perform?
For cardiovascular activity, start with something simple such as walking or swimming. Gentle stretching or yoga are beneficial to improve flexibility. In addition a few key exercises to increase core and abdominal strength are as follows:
Can you exercise if you are breastfeeding?
You can absolutely exercise if you are breastfeeding. Exercise is not thought to have an effect on the volume of milk production or composition of the milk and has not been shown to affect a nursing infant’s growth. It is thought that high-intensity physical activity can cause an accumulation of lactic acid, which may produce a sour taste for the baby, but this can be minimized by sticking to moderate intensity of exercise, staying well hydrated, and feeding the baby just before exercising.
Make sure to listen to your body, and if you have pain or if your vaginal bleeding increases with exercise, contact your physician or midwife before continuing to exercise.